SMOC lawyers say town moving too slow on documents

SMOC lawyers say town moving too slow on documents Tuesday, December 18, 2007
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - The battle over public records continues between lawyers representing Framingham officials and South Middlesex Opportunity Council, which filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against them in October.

The most recent salvo came last week when Heidi Nadel of Todd and Weld, the firm representing SMOC in the case, charged Mintz Levin attorneys with withholding some records they sent and holding on too long to others SMOC requested.

"It has been nearly three months since SMOC sent its public records requests to the town and it has paid more than $10,000 for the documents, money which the town has held for the past two months," Nadel wrote in a Dec. 11 letter to Joseph Lipchitz at Mintz Levin.

"There is absolutely no excuse for further delay," she wrote.

Jeffrey Robbins, the attorney hired by Framingham selectmen to defend them and other public officials in the case filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, said his office is "methodically" reviewing and releasing the documents.

Mintz Levin delivered more than 1,000 pages of documents last week to Todd and Weld, with a second delivery of similar size yesterday, said Robbins.  The remainder of the records will be sent when the review is done, he said.

"The town is steadily, promptly and methodically producing the documents it's required to produce," said Robbins.  "All of the documents have been gathered and many of the documents have been produced.

"I think the documents are being reviewed at a pretty good clip," said Robbins, whose firm was hired by selectmen after a special Town Meeting in late November authorized the creation of a special account and a transfer of $150,000 from the town's reserves to defend the lawsuit.

The sides have agreed to three days of mediation, starting Jan. 9.

In her letter, Nadel charged Mintz Levin with removing documents from the Building Department and Planning Board files and failing to send anything yet from the Police Department, human services coordinator, selectmen and Town Counsel Chris Petrini's office.

Robbins has leaned on a ruling this summer by the Supreme Judicial Court that protects documents between a municipal attorney and his clients, but Nadel requested Mintz Levin log all withheld documents and provide reasons.

In a separate letter to Lipchitz, Levin noted the firm is required to produce detailed indices of every document it withholds to support its claim of attorney work product.

"SMOC hereby demands the town provide the legally required detailed indices at once," wrote Nadel in a Dec. 13 letter.

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